Basic Yeast Donuts (with Many Variations)

June  2, 2014
12 Ratings
Photo by Alpha Smoot
Author Notes

This recipe is a version of one passed down from my great-great grandma. Thanks to an old beaten-up recipe card, these donuts are a family legacy. —Erin Jeanne McDowell

Watch This Recipe
Basic Yeast Donuts (with Many Variations)
  • Prep time 1 hour 30 minutes
  • Cook time 25 minutes
  • Makes 2 dozen large or 4 dozen mini
  • 1 1/2 cups whole milk (12 1/2 ounces)
  • 1/3 cup water (2 1/2 ounces)
  • 4 tablespoons butter (2 ounces)
  • 5 cups all-purpose flour (25 ounces)
  • 1 pinch nutmeg
  • 1 pinch cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup sugar (2 ounces)
  • 1 tablespoon active dry yeast
  • 2 eggs
  • 6 cups Vegetable oil, for frying (use more if needed)
In This Recipe
  1. In a small pot, heat the milk, water, and butter until the butter has melted and the mixture is warm. Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly.
  2. Mix the flour, nutmeg, cinnamon, salt, sugar, and yeast in the bowl of a mixer (or a large bowl if mixing by hand). Add the warm milk mixture and mix to combine. Add the eggs, scraping the bowl well. Turn the mixer up to medium speed, and, using a dough hook, mix until the dough begins to pull away from the edges. If mixing by hand, knead until it easily pulls away from the sides of the bowl while as you knead (it will still be quite sticky).
  3. Transfer the finished dough to a well-oiled container and cover. Allow it to rise until doubled in size, about 1 hour. Alternatively, you can refrigerate the dough overnight so that it’s ready to make in the morning—but you may need to punch the dough down once or twice during that period to prevent it from over-fermenting.
  4. To shape the doughnuts, roll out half of the dough on a lightly floured surface to about 1/2-inch thick. Use a doughnut cutter to cut doughnuts (alternatively you can use two circle cutters, or even the rim of a drinking glass and the rim of a shot glass, to shape the doughnuts). I also like to cut the doughnuts into squares (about 2 inches by 2 inches) using a pizza cutter -- this is especially great for filled doughnuts.
  5. Heat the oil to about 360° F. (You can use a candy/fryer thermometer, but I just do a test with one of the donut holes or a scrap piece of dough: If it rises rapidly to the surface, the oil is ready. If the donuts begin to brown too quickly, the oil is too hot.)
  6. Fry the doughnuts, turning them halfway through cooking, until they're golden brown on each side. Drain on absorbent paper towels. Finish as desired. (You can glaze the donuts by dunking them, or by pouring the glaze over donuts on a rack).
  7. Some finishing options:
    -Powdered: Toss in powdered sugar or cinnamon sugar.
    -Glazed: Mix 3/4 cup powdered sugar, 3 to 4 tablespoons heavy cream or milk (enough to make a runny glaze), and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla (optional).
    -Chocolate-Glazed: Mix 3/4 cup powdered sugar, 2 tablespoons dark cocoa powder, and 4 to 5 tablespoons milk or cream.
    -Chocolate-Coated: Dip doughnuts in tempered chocolate thinned with 1 to 2 tablespoons vegetable oil.
    -Fruit-Glazed: Mix 1 cup powdered sugar and 1/4 cup fruit purée.
    -Violet-Glazed: Mix 1 cup powdered sugar, 1/4 cup cream or milk, and 1 teaspoon violet extract. Garnish with candied violets.
    -Pistachio: Glaze donuts with basic glaze, then press in chopped toasted pistachios.
    -Coconut: Glaze with coconut glaze (1 cup powdered sugar, 1/4 cup coconut milk, and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla), and press in toasted coconut flakes.
    -Black and White: Make a dark chocolate ganache with 1 cup chopped dark chocolate and 1/2 cup heavy cream. Make a white chocolate ganache with 1 cup chopped white chocolate with 1/4 cup heavy cream. Glaze half the doughnut with the chocolate glaze and half with the white glaze.
    -Caramel-Glazed: Melt 1 cup of caramel candies with 1/3 cup heavy cream in the microwave in 10-second blasts until fully melted. Thin the glaze with additional milk or cream as needed to get a pourable glaze.
    -Meyer Lemon: Mix 1 cup powdered sugar with the zest and juice of 1 Meyer lemon, then add enough milk to form a pourable glaze.
    -Cinnamon Roll: Roll out the dough to 1/4-inch thick. Mix together 1 stick melted butter with 1 cup granulated sugar and 2 tablespoons ground cinnamon. Spread the mixture evenly all over the dough, then roll tightly into a cylinder. Cut into 1 inch-thick pieces, then fry until golden brown. Glaze with basic glaze.

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I always have three kinds of hot sauce in my purse. I have a soft spot for making people their favorite dessert, especially if it's wrapped in a pastry crust. My newest cookbook, The Book on Pie, is out on November 10th, 2020.

45 Reviews

Marsha A. April 3, 2021
I made these with my 6 year old twin girls. Loved it! Had a few questions though:
*Why didn't the dough didn't come out as wet as the video?
*What ingredient controls how airy it is?
*The dough had little specks of maybe yeast (we used instant)? Not sure, but it baked out. Phew!
*How long does refrigerated dough last?
We'll be making these again and really want to nail it.
Thank you!

irenefiszer January 25, 2021
These donuts are delicious and easy to make. I coated mine with cinnamon sugar (2 tbsp cinnamon and 1/2 cup of sugar). My only gripe with these is that they are not as great the next day. They went from an airy delight to chewy and dense by the next morning. It could be because of the humidity where I live, but I'm not sure! 9/10 if you can eat them the same day!
Alicia P. December 1, 2020
These were perfect and tasted just like MY grandma’s!
Deedle November 8, 2020
I really enjoy making this recipe. My donuts turned out very dense, not sure what I did....
Tehreem K. October 11, 2020
Would this same dough work for Boston Cream doughnuts as well?
jamesdonegan June 14, 2020
We had a great time making these. We make videos of ourselves trying (and usually failing) to make different recipes we find online, so here it is if people are interested!
Dani May 14, 2020
My first time making doughnuts and this recipe did not disappoint. They came out light and airy. I made these by hand and had no problems. Substituted almond milk and plant butter for the whole milk and reg butter because its what I had onhand. Trust that this is meant to be a very sticky dough and don’t add too much flour. Instead of rolling out the dough I patted it down with my hands like I would biscuit dough. I suspect overhandling or too much flour would result in stiff or dense doughnuts. Love that I didn’t have to wait for the doughnuts to proof before frying. Will happily keep this recipe on hand.
Adeyelu T. May 4, 2020
This's really good. Love it
Kristen B. May 3, 2020
Your video says instant yeast, but the recipe says active dry? Which yeast should I use?
Kristen B. May 3, 2020
I went with instant and it worked beautifully
ellehcar May 4, 2020
I didn't notice the discrepancy! I used active dry and it worked just fine for me.
Natalie R. May 10, 2020
I noticed the discrepancy as well, But i already bought active dry. Did you have to activate the yeast before using it ? I’m a fairly new to making doughs, so i want to make sure I get it right.
ellehcar May 12, 2020
I didn't activate my (active dry) yeast beforehand but I know that it was alive since I had just used it the day prior. It's funny, while I was making the recipe I thought it was wierd that it didn't ask me to proof the yeast but I didn't think to check since this instant yeast stuff is new to me! It might not be a bad idea to proof yeast first if you are unsure.
Jessica D. April 30, 2020
Your recipe says to heat the water with the milk and butter, but your video you put the water in separately... which is it?
Judicaye April 30, 2020
When I made them, I heated them together in a saucepan. It worked just fine.
Suzanne B. April 29, 2020
unfortunately I've had to leave the dough in the refrigerator longer than 12 it worth it to still make them, or should I start over now that I have time?
Marie R. May 25, 2020
I would heat a small batch of oil and pinch off a ball to test it.
Judicaye April 25, 2020
I made these for my son-in-law's birthday and they were a hit! Easy to make and absolutely yummy, I highly recommend this recipe. I've never made doughnuts before and I couldn't believe how easy it was. We will definitely do this again, and again, and......
[email protected] April 17, 2020
S00 good made by me. I love it.
Susan L. April 13, 2020
Lol. I had fun with these doughnuts. Are they perfect?. No 😁 Are the yummy delicious? Yes! The dough was a little sticky but I made it work with a lil extra flour on the board. They fried nice. The first doughnut holes would not flip over, so I pushed the rest with my fingers so they looked a little like a pancake just before I dropped them in the oil. That worked great..they still puffed back up round. I was able to flip them over.. They are delicious. Note: it would be easier to go to a local doughnut shop chain, get perfect doughnuts. But this is a nice time to try new stuff and challenge myself. I will get better. 😁
ellehcar April 5, 2020
Wonderful recipe! I even made a mistake and omitted the sugar but was able to incorporate it back into the dough. I made them to set up overnight and finished them in the morning. They fried up beautifully and I coated them in cinnamon sugar. What a delight, thank you so much!
onlineRecipesSuck March 28, 2020
I'm sure that these donuts CAN turn out very well but this site, like every other [email protected]#ing cooking website, has the worst interface and caused me to waste SO MANY ingredients while under quarantine! I tried to use this recipe on mobile but with so many ads popups and videos it is literally unusable. So I looked it up on my desktop to print out the recipe but the API that prints cut off a very crucial number. So instead of saying "1 1/2 cups milk", it printed out with "1/2 cup milk". So after step two I had an exceptionally dry dough. I knew this wasn't right and checked the website, discovered the issue and tried to quickly remedy the situation. It didn't work. I was left with wet, lumpy garbage. Usually I would just shrug it off and start over but we are under shelter in place order for Covid-19 and our store is out of nearly all baking goods. So now I've wasted FIVE cups of flour and half a stick of butter because you guys payed for the cheapest website service and have more low effort ads than a porn site.
Michelle C. April 24, 2020
You know there is a "print" button up at the top, right? I clicked it, a pop up box came up with the recipe for me to print. Then I printed it and I was staring at a perfectly printed out recipe for me to look at. Nothing was cut off what so ever. It seems like you are having a user error issue and it has absolutely nothing to do with this site. I also had it pulled up on my iPad with no issues at all with ads. Sounds like you need to take a really deep breath and remind yourself it's going to be ok. It's just donuts.
Lightfoot March 22, 2020
I tried this donut recipe and trusted that it would be a good one because I love Food 52! However, I felt that 5 cups of flour was too much and the yeast did not mix well in the dough, barely rising. The recipe calls for Active Dry, not instant yeast. So the dough was a little tough... will try again today, since we're all at home baking these days!
Ross M. February 14, 2020
I just made these for my boyfriend for Valentine's Day. Light, fluffy and crisp. I made 3 different glazes (vanilla, raspberry and lemon). Trying to nail the right consistency for the glaze was the hardest part. Other than that it's so easy when you follow Erin's great video. I rolled my dough to about a 1/2 inch—worked nicely. I used a large cup and a shot glass to punch out the donuts, but I'm putting a proper donut cutter in my Amazon cart as we speak because I plan on making these again soon. Thank you, Erin! You're a joy!

PS: I'll probably make the dough the night before and refrigerate it like in video, just to make it that much easier on myself.
Anka V. December 13, 2019
simply colossal... <3
fuz November 4, 2019
Hi ,
I have been looking for yeast doughnut recipe. Finally got to make these. Followed all steps however my dough was very sticky. I managed to knead the dough with some extra flour and finally got the right consistency to be able to cut out my doughnuts. Must say they tasted amazing 😋